July 14, 2024

White House Says U.S. Monitoring Developments in Gabon Amid Coup

NSC Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby stated “all lives matter.” Susan Walsh/AP
NSC Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby stated “all lives matter.” Susan Walsh/AP

On Wednesday, the White House confirmed that it is closely observing events in Gabon, the central African nation, following reports of a military coup.

John Kirby, the Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, relayed in a teleconference with reporters that there are indications of a military faction assuming control in Gabon after incumbent President Ali Bongo Ondimba was announced as the winner of the recent elections. Kirby added that all U.S. personnel stationed at the embassy in Libreville, Gabon’s capital, are safe and accounted for. However, the complete details of the situation remain scant as the coup seems to have transpired overnight.

He said that President Joe Biden has continued to reiterate the United States’ call for countries to champion democratic values and shun forceful grabs for power.

Earlier, military personnel in Gabon, speaking on television, said that they had overthrown the existing regime. The nation’s political lineage traces back to Ali Bongo Ondimba’s father, who governed Gabon from 1967 until his death in 2009. Following in his father’s footsteps, Ali Bongo Ondimba recently secured a contentious third term, which is now being disputed. The military asserts that they’ve annulled the election results, disbanded government institutions, and sealed Gabon’s borders.

The electoral board of Gabon declared on Wednesday that Bongo won the presidency by securing 64.27% of the votes, amidst allegations of a rigged election process by the opposition. Albert Ondo Ossa, Bongo’s primary challenger and joint candidate, reportedly received 30.77% of the vote. In response to claims of voting discrepancies from Ondo Ossa, Bongo’s team immediately issued denials.

Ali Bongo’s victory came despite challenges from a field of 18 competitors. Six of these candidates, in a tactical move, supported Albert Ondo Ossa, a former minister and academic.

Amidst the nation’s abundant oil reserves, a significant portion of Gabon’s 2.3 million citizens continues to grapple with poverty. A sentiment for change is evident among many opposition supporters.

Bongo, who last visited Washington D.C. in December for the second U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit alongside President Joe Biden, had experienced a stroke several years prior. This condition necessitated assistance for him to exit vehicles.

The legacy of Gabon’s leadership extends to Bongo’s father, Omar Bongo, who steered the country from 1967 until his demise in 2009. Omar Bongo’s rule, which began shortly after Gabon’s independence from French governance, was characterized by a prolonged one-party regime, with a multi-party system only being introduced in 1991.

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